This particular post is of a different subject matter than the usual postings that I have included in this space in the past. However, I do think that this is one that will provide value to you in the form of a recommendation. It is a recommendation that may even change your outlook on the encounters you experience in day to day life. No, this is not about dreaming or experiencing life moment to moment with meditation or awareness or anything like that. The experience I am bringing into this discussion is found within a video game, not one of the major releases of the year like you would find with Halo or Call of Duty, but one made by a small group of people and mainly by one person. This game is called Undertale by Toby Fox.

Undertale is a game that came out somewhat recently, only in September of 2015, and while not having the press of other major game releases that you would see on commercials or print advertisements, it has grown to become an instant cult-classic, spawning fans who applaud the simplistic, yet subtlety detailed sprite work, amazing soundtrack and gripping story between monsters and humans which the game centers around. Amazingly, it was created with software called Game Maker Studio and with only some glances at the program user interface and intricacies therein, the achievement of making Undertale is all the more impressive.

I should also make a note that I have played through the game myself at the behest of others who played it previously. Without knowing much about the game, I had listened to these suggestions politely, but ultimately was dismissive after looking at screenshots and some video of the game in action. It was only after several reminders that I finally broke down. While, at first, it may have just been a way to get these recommendations to stop, my experience with Undertale quickly became one of incredible enjoyment.

As stated previously, the story centers around a world where monsters and humans co-exist, but relations between the two groups are much less than friendly, even culminating in a war between the two which forced the monsters UNDERground (get it?), unable to journey back to the surface due to a barrier put in place by the humans. A young human child wanders to a mountain range where the monsters are and falls into the underground area, and thus begins the tale with you playing as the fallen child.

The tagline for Undertale is that it is a game where no character has to “die.” Played out in typical role playing game (or RPG) fashion, you fight the monsters in the underground for experience points which then translates into levels making the human character stronger to face more powerful adversaries later on. That is, in Undertale you can fight the monsters to become stronger, but you also have the option of using actions and mercy to live through these encounters as well. Without giving too much in details away, this is the single mechanic within the game can have an effect on you not only as a player but also as a person.

Undertale has many good points, several of which I had mentioned earlier. One item I did not include is regarding the characters that make up this story. While the story itself is a gripping narrative, it does not accomplish this through writing that is on par with War and Peace or other such works. Rather, it is a story that relies on its characters, their flaws, their motivations, and their overall personality to share the story with the player. It lets the characters speak for themselves allowing their flaws, motivations, and character to shine through. And it’s all the more powerful for it. These are characters that become larger than life; characters you will remember and relate to as you progress through the story. Remember that, in this game, characters will die if beaten in a fight. That does not mean they are “defeated, beaten, knocked out,” or other verbiage used in other games that denote beating an enemy and then reappearing later on in the story or simply a screen later. You might even find it difficult to battle some of these "enemies" as you learn more about them and see them in action. Once they are gone, they are truly gone and only a game reset can bring them back (as well as resetting your entire progress). It all comes down to the decisions that you make and the weight of making certain decisions that can stay with you.

In Undertale, you are making very deliberate decisions as to how to progress forward even if you are not fully aware you are making them. Whether you want to fight characters you come across, or if you would rather speak to them without coming to blows, you can, and each decision has some ramification for future events. Undertale, if anything, is a game of details, and considering what decisions you make, you will see these minute details in conversations or visually as you explore the underground. Other games have had similar mechanics in a “tell your own story” kind of feel, so this is not a new feature, per se, but I find it hard to think of another game where it was done so well. Having some semblance of what happens in an outcome allows people to feel more engaged or have more ownership of future consequences. These consequences in Undertale can be uplifting, incredibly saddening, heart-wrenching, or downright terrifying. Once again, events that stay with you, even when you wish you could go back and redo your decision.

Obviously, there are many different facets of Undertale that can be included in this writing, and I can continue further into more posts with not just the game itself and what a player experiences on the surface, but the deep underlying motives and revelations that come to light after certain decisions are made. You are not just learning about the game world and story; you truly are learning about yourself and your own motivations. In closing this writing, I cannot recommend enough that you play this game. Not only is this game a joy to play through, but, personally, I feel it is my most favorite game of all time, and, for those of you who know me, that is saying quite a bit given my history of numerous games. In all seriousness though, give this game a shot, play it in earnest, and you very well may have an experience that not only you can reflect on, but one that might allow you to grow as a person.

You can find Undertale available on Steam for around $10.00.

By:
Matt Buynak Jr.

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